Most women are excited to find out they are pregnant with their first child. That wasn’t the case for me, a 17-year-old who had just finished high school. I had two years of a bricklaying apprenticeship behind me with full-time work in the construction industry in my immediate future. A baby certainly wasn’t on the agenda. Maternity leave wasn’t an option, so I soon found myself jobless with a baby on the way, writes Casey Mackinley author of Girls Don’t Lay Bricks.
Things weren’t looking good and it soon got worse. By eighteen years old I was a single parent, unemployed, receiving government benefits and living with my parents.
Reflecting on my situation, I knew if changes weren’t made this could have negative impacts on my son’s upbringing. Having sole financial responsibility of a child weighed heavy on my mind; my choices had brought him into the world so how could I provide a better life for him? The choices I made next would have lasting positive effects on both myself and my baby.
My first step was to gain financial freedom. A casual job working for different promotional agencies in shopping centre’s was the way to go for me. Realising I had quite the talent for working in the events industry I started to ask questions to learn as much as I could about the booking systems, how much they charge, what the shopping centres liked and didn’t like. Then I started to research how to start a company I figured at the time that would give me the most flexibility with having a child to also take care of.
First I googled as much information I could find about starting a company, I then enrolled into a business course and finally I sat down with an accountant to find out what fees were involved. At the time it cost $1,000 to register a company with ASIC and gain an Australian Company Number, I also needed public liability insurance. It took me quite a few months to save the money needed to start my own company but I was determined.
I went on to start an events company. which within three years employed over 100 experienced staff working across various and tailored promotional activities for clients such as Westfield, DFO and Mirvac. While my business was growing, I diversified and built a second company; an aerial dance studio which offered instruction on the latest techniques in aerial yoga, aerial silks, pole dancing and aerial hoops. It created a safe environment for men and women alike, to learn new skills and gain new fitness experiences. I managed to accomplish all of this by the age of 25.
If I can do all of this with nothing but my parents garage, mobile phone and a basic website then what is stopping you? Here are some of the steps I took:
Getting yourself on track financially
Living off government benefits meant that after all the necessities were paid for I had $16 left each fortnight. Finding consistent work in the promotions and events industry helped ease the financial burden of single parenting. It also started the thought process of what else I could do to better my situation while learning the ins and outs of the company I worked for. My advice is to be realistic in your current financial situation and with your budgeting. Can you afford to remain unemployed or can you upskill in an area you could then grow into a business or career?
Having found myself interested in how a business operates, I enrolled to study a Diploma of Business. Then came the juggling act all parents experience when they return to work or study. I utilised both childcare services and friends and family to babysit which made completing the Diploma more manageable. You gain a world of advantage by acquiring additional qualifications in a field that interests you and could further your career. It’s always worth investing in you!
Strive to want more
Don’t remain complacent, constantly challenge yourself to do more. Do you have a hobby you could turn into a business? Is there an opportunity to deliver a product currently in high demand? Are there benefits to expanding on your career, personal growth or business? Surround yourself with like-minded people who have your best interest at heart, these people will encourage you to remain on task and grounded whilst also supporting you.
There were times when I had no money to pay for additional business marketing. This is where going back to basics was a necessity. Utilise free advertising platforms such as Facebook and Instagram to get word of your business and products out there; make a business page, update it frequently and interact with your client base. As well as these methods, I also walked throughout the neighbourhood dropping flyers into mailboxes. Use a range of advertising materials to ensure you reach the widest range of clientele.
I didn’t personally know any business owners, someone who could understand what I was trying to build and accomplish. And without guidance, I made many mistakes along the way. But I learnt from them and as a person, a mother and a businesswoman, I progressed. You too, need to be your number one supporter. If you aspire to accomplish great things, believe in yourself and accept that you may make some very human mistakes (which you will overcome), then what’s stopping you?
Life isn’t about making the right choices it’s about making the best of the choices you have already made. I continually strive to help people be the best version of themselves they can be. If sharing my story just helps one person change their life for the better than it would have been worth it.